This year’s Golden Horseshoe (17-19 May) will be the 50th incarnation of the ride, but is likely to be the last on Exmoor as no one has stepped in to take over from the retiring organiser.

The iconic ride, which is considered by many endurance riders to be the ultimate test of fitness, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Ride organiser Barbara Wigley, 67, has been involved in the ride for more than 30 years and running it since 2007, but is stopping this year. The rest of her six-strong committee have said they are also giving up.

Mrs Wigley said rising costs, fundraising and spiralling paperwork and health and safety demands are to blame.

“All of us have decided to stop after the 50th anniversary, but we are hoping that someone will take it on,” Mrs Wigley told H&H. “But if no one comes along, the ride will not happen next year.”

Some Endurance GB members have suggested the ride should revert to moving around the country, as it did when it was started.

The first Golden Horseshoe Ride was run on Exmoor in 1965 by the British Horse Society. Promoted by Col. Mike Ansell and poet Ronald Duncan, the first ride was so popular that entries closed a month early as they had reached the 110 limit.

The linear route began at Malsmead and finished in Welcombe, Devon, and riders had to find their own way.

At the finish, welfare campaigner Glenda Spooner and jockey John Oaksey checked the horses and the riders who completed at 6mph and above were all given a golden horseshoe.

The event moved each year until 1974, when it became permanently based on Exmoor.

International endurance rider Trisha Hirst said: “It is very sad the Golden Horseshoe is coming to an end. It is a sign of how the sport is changing.

“Most people now work and don’t have time to get horses fit enough to do the Horseshoe,” she told H&H. “Fifty years ago there were lots more people at home, and many hunting people used to do the ride at the end of the season.”

Mrs Wigley added: “We will be going out with a bang. One of the original riders will be coming on the great-granddaughter of the horse she rode in 1965.”

➤ H&H is fielding a team in this year’s event, for updates on training and how they get on visit: www.horseandhound.co.uk/goldenhorseshoe

Ref: Horse & Hound; 19 March